Past the sleeves!


I’ve now completed the set-in sleeve shaping on Tric, and have separated the sleeve stitches from the body. I also moved it to a needle with a longer cable so that I can more easily try it on as I go. Looking good so far, I think!

I've separated the sleeves on Tric!

Sorry for the low light – it’s a rainy day!

I found the “Helpful Table” portion of the pattern incredibly, well, helpful! It lays out when to do each type of increase required for the sleeves, body, and neckline in a very intuitive (to me, at least!) way.

I've separated the sleeves on Tric!

(a great looking sweater, and a sticker for a great candidate in the background!)

I haven’t mentioned the yarn I’m using for this: it’s Cascade 220 Superwash, which I originally got 8 years ago, in order to make a blanket for my little munchkin, and then…never finished it. Longtime readers probably know I don’t normally knit with superwash wool, especially for something like a sweater for myself!  I don’t like superwash wool for sustainability reasons, and I also know that it tends to “grow” a bit more with blocking than a non-superwash wool. Plus, I just plain like wooly wools! I also don’t care for what I’ve learned about Cascade Yarns’ politics and business practices, and will likely not buy any more yarn from them, though I’ve got quite lot of it in my stash in various forms (mostly regular 220 and Eco Wool). But in any case, I am finding it quite pleasant to knit with, and it feels good against my skin, which is nice because I do plan on wearing this sweater not just over long sleeves in the winter, but also with my sleeveless dresses in the spring and fall.

From the back

The main point of interest in the body of the sweater is a central triangular panel in the back, which will expand outward from that central eyelet column. The stitch pattern in the triangular panel is the same as in the collar; it’s a textured rib pattern and I think it’s going to look lovely on this cardigan.

Set-in sleeve, created seamlessly from the top down in one go.

I really enjoyed creating the set-in sleeve cap; this method is basically a reversal of the bottom-up seamless set-in sleeves that I learned from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books and used, for example, on M’s Peg+Cat sweater. (Speaking of which, I’d really like to make a me-sized version of that cardigan, perhaps with a few extra little details!)

So, that’s where I am with Tric!

Tric’ing right along, after a hiccup


So, I ended up ripping out what I’d knit so far of Tric because I wasn’t happy with how the picked-up stitches were looking; the pattern calls for you to edge the right collar with slipped stitches and the left collar with garter stitch, and that just…looked weird, once I’d picked up the stitches. Perhaps Åsa’s method of picking up stitches is different from mine, but the logic behind the different edging wasn’t explained in the pattern, so I just ripped things out and did a garter stitch edge on BOTH sides of the collar, and was much, much happier with how things looked.

Tric looks funny on the needles!

Of course, the neckline is laying a little weird in this photo, but trust me, it looks nice in person.

Why yes, it does look a bit strange on the needles…in fact, my husband joked that it looked like I was knitting some weird sort of bra, and I can’t say he’s wrong about that!

My husband joked that it looked like I was knitting some sort of weird bra!

Not actually a bra! (And much bigger than I’d need, ha!)

It’s really neat to be creating something three-dimensional on a single needle like this, and the way that the sleeve caps and set-in sleeves are created, with a slipped-stitch “faux seam” edge, is really very cool.

Sleeve cap!

I think the fit is looking good so far, too!

Sleeve cap!

I don’t have a long enough circular needle to really try it on properly at the moment; sometime I’ll need to add an extension to the cord on this one and really get a sense of how it will sit, but I’m pretty optimistic about it!

Tric, so far

It’s kind of like a superhero cape at the moment :)

So far, I’m having a lot of fun knitting this, and am still learning a lot. I’m *loving* the “Helpful Chart” section of the pattern, which lays out the sleeve shaping, neck-shaping, and body-shaping directions in a really intuitive row-by-row way. What a brilliant idea! Still plenty more knitting to go before I finish the sleeve shaping, but I bet it won’t take me too long!

The beginning of Tric!


What is this crazy thing??

The beginning of Tric

Oh, it’s just the beginning of Tric!

The beginning of Tric

What you see so far represents the right-half of the back neck, plus the right shoulder, and a little bit of the left-half of the back neck. It’ll make more sense when you see the next picture:

The beginning of Tric

The “try it on as you go!” aspect of top-down knitting is just a little bit weird at this stage of the process, but it does look like it’s going to fit me well!

This is a very new way of knitting a sweater for me. It’s knit using Åsa Tricosa’s “Ziggurat” technique, and it’s fascinating! I watched the episode of Fruity Knitting where Åsa went into detail about each step of the process, so I have a decent grasp on how it’s all going to go together in the end, but it’s still a little mind-boggling at first.

So far, I’ve already learned a lot of new skills! She has you cast on using the “winding cast-on”, which is a way of casting on that lets you knit outward from either side – perfect for something like the back of a collar. In the photo below, I’m pointing to the center of the back neck, where I first knit outward to the right, and then knit leftward:

The beginning of Tric

In addition to the winding cast-on, I also learned how to do German Short-Rows! I’d heard of them before, but had never actually done them, and Åsa very helpfully includes links to technique tutorials in her pattern, so it was quite easy to learn them and they seem to work really well! I still haven’t quite worked out in my mind HOW they work so well, so sometime I want to think through the stitch geometry a little more, but they’re very cool and super easy.

I also learned how to do Åsa’s version of the crochet cast-on to add those stitches for the right shoulder, and while slipping stitches is not “new” in any way, the way that the inner edge of the collar is created as a tiny bit of double-knitting is brilliant, and I’m totally going to steal the idea the next time I make something that needs a nice edge.

The beginning of Tric!

So far, so good! Soon enough it’ll start looking a bit more like a sweater in these posts, I promise!

Finished Farmhouse Cardigan!


I was determined to finish this sweater by the end of the week, and I succeeded!

Farmhouse Cardigan

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Farmhouse Cardigan
Yarn: Beaverslide Worsted in “Bracken”; about 5 skeins
Needles: Size 8s
Time to knit: a little over a month, but with a couple of weeks off while I was up in Wisconsin

I’m really delighted with how it turned out – and I’m so thrilled that my experiment with double-knit pockets worked well!

Farmhouse Cardigan

I make such dorky faces when I pose for self-timer photos!

The other deviation I made from the pattern was to add a little bit of waist-shaping; I did two pairs of double-decreases, spaced evenly apart from the center back, and then did double-increases to get back to the full width before I reached the underarm. I had a hard time getting a good photo, but you can kind of see them here:

Farmhouse Cardigan

I have a bit of a swayback, and this kind of shaping helps it to “hug” that curve in my spine a bit more when I wear it, instead of ballooning out.


Farmhouse Cardigan

That lower button isn’t actually sewn on crooked, I promise!


I found the coolest buttons in my drawer-of-random-things, and luckily, I had enough for this cardigan! I sewed them on using the leftover yarn from my green Willow Cowl, which doesn’t *quite* match, but I think it looks nice.

Farmhouse Cardigan

Shorts + Heavy Wool Sweater: kind of an odd look, but it’s hot!

I think this cardigan is going to be really great come winter; it’ll look nice with all of my grey tops, but also with some of the greens and light blues that I tend to wear, too.

Farmhouse Cardigan

And it matches my eyes, too!

Farmhouse Cardigan

I’ve already cast on for my next sweater, but you’ll have to wait til tomorrow for a post about that!

so many ideas, so little time!


So, remember how yesterday I wrote about how the logic of brioche + double knitting was starting to click for me? Well, that click was enough for my creative brain to start churning out idea upon idea of how I could combine the two in knit designs, so I just had to get out some scrap yarn (this is spare Beaverslide Sport/Sock weight) and play for a bit:

Just playing around

The idea that came to my mind first was a brioche-stitch cardigan with a double-knit hem, cuffs, collar, and button band. My swatching tells me what I already knew – there will have to be some major stitch-count changes from hem to body for that to work, but a double-knit button band, knit along with the cardigan, would be quite easy. I still have a little bit of playing around to do in terms of how wide I’d want to make it, and how to incorporate neat-looking buttonholes, but I think it would be awesome!

Just playing around

I’m imagining this in TWO colors – a reversible cardigan!

Of course, the very next idea that popped into my brain is that such a cardigan could be completely reversible…and that if two-color brioche + double-knitting were used rather than a single color, you could have two DIFFERENT cardigans in one!

And then my brain thought about doing a pullover instead of a cardigan (I’d have to learn how to brioche in the round, since I don’t currently know how to do that!) and making a reversible 2-color brioche pullover with double-knit polka dots or stars. OMG, wouldn’t that be so cool?

And just like that, my brain had planned 3-4 sweaters. Which is both really cool, and also really NOT cool, because brioche + double-knitting is quite time-consuming and time? There really is not enough of it in the day for all of the ideas my brain likes to come up with.

Speaking of ideas and plans, shortly before our trip to Wisconsin, I got the Strange Brew book, and y’all, it is SO GREAT. The yoke recipes make my yoke-loving designer brain so happy, and are giving me a lot of ideas about how I might be able to adjust my Octopus Yoke design to make it a pattern that I could publish in multiple sizes! And I think it’ll be useful for thinking through the sizing if I ever actually publish the top-down Stripes! cardigan (last seen here) as a pattern in multiple sizes, too! (Again though: when?? There’s less than a month before my schedule starts ramping up again in anticipation of Fall Semester!)

I just got this book and it is making my yoke-sweater loving heart so happy and filling my brain with ideas for what I could do differently if I ever do want to publish a pattern for the Octopus Yoke sweater or other designs. The yoke design “recipes” and

And the patterns in the book are fantastic, too. I’m especially enamored with Compass, and I think that instead of knitting Rusty Tuku with my Juniper Beaverslide Sport/Sock yarn (plus the leftovers from Vita de Vie), I’ll probably knit Compass. And I also really like Icefall, and could make one from the cone of Bartlettyarns sport weight in dark brown that I picked up the last time I was at Rhinebeck, plus one or more of the miniskein sets I picked up there. So there’s another two sweaters my brain is already planning for me, in addition to the possible reknits of the Octopus Yoke and the Stripes! cardigan. Oh, brain, you overwhelm me!

The next sweater on my needles, though, is going to be Tric by Åsa Tricosa, because I’m determined to try that new sweater construction technique before the summer is over. And I have the whole list of other sweaters that I was planning before this summer started, too. OMG. Too many sweater ideas!

Oh, and there’s one more thing that’s making my brain brim with ideas…

I have a new sewing machine!!!

I’ve been saving up for a new sewing machine for awhile, because my old one hasn’t been working (remember all the hand-sewing I’ve had to do?), and even when it WAS working, it was not a very pleasant one to sew on. I read a bunch of reviews, asked friends, decided on the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 and then got very lucky to find that it was on sale last week, so I got it! I still need to clear some space down in our basement for my sewing table (the table is set up, but it has boxes and other junk piled on top of it!) but then I’m going to try to really learn how to sew, hopefully starting with a Dress No. 1 (or several). I know I have the pattern, but I’m not sure where it ended up after I move, so I’m going to look for it for awhile and if I don’t find it, I’ll just order another copy – I don’t mind giving Sonya Philip a little more of my money!

So anyway, that’s where my brain is…absolutely full to the brim with ideas, and definitely not enough time to make them all happen as fast as my brain wants them to. Deep breaths, self. The ideas will keep. (I hope.)

project progress!


I made it happen: as of this morning, there are now TWO sleeves completed for the Farmhouse cardigan!

two sleeves!

Today is actually on the chilly side, and rainy. That’s a welcome break from the incredible heat we had over the weekend (thank goodness for air conditioning!), but kind of a bummer for taking photos.

two sleeves and a rainy day.

I’m looking forward to joining the yoke together and finishing off this cardigan – I do think I’ll be able to do that before the end of the month!

And I’m making progress on my brioche + double knitting project, too:

Light side (2/3rds of the way through pattern repeat)

Light Side (yes, there’s a tiny blip of the dark color in the light color column on the far right edge; I’m just gonna let that be my “rare stitch“!)

I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the pattern repeat, and the logic of it is really starting to click. I’m really wrapping my brain around how double knitting + brioche go together, in that both involve slipping every other stitch – it’s just that in double knitting, you carry the working yarn behind or in front of the stitches you’re slipping (in between the layers) whereas in brioche, you’re wrapping it around the stitch that you’re slipping, giving it a little “shawl”.

Dark side (2/3rds of the way through pattern repeat)

Dark Side – I love these dark purples and blues!

I’ve even managed to fix mistakes! It’s not so bad, for example, if you realized that you treated a slipped stitch as if it were double-knit, instead of brioche – that working yarn strand, as a kind of “float”, is still hanging out behind or in front of the stitch and can be lifted up on to the needle to do the brk or brp stitch. I mean, you wouldn’t want to do that all the time (it would mess up your tension) but as an occasional fix, it works. It’s so nice to know how to fix something, rather than being stuck, or having to rip everything out. It’s incredibly freeing once you can read your knitting and really understand the geometry of how the stitches are constructed, because mistakes aren’t so scary anymore!

Here’s what the dark side of the scarf, which is my favorite side, looks like when I stretch it out a bit:

Dark side, slightly stretched

I just LOVE those dark purples and blues so much, especially with the little pops of the light robin-egg blue. The color combination is turning out even more beautiful than I imagined it would! And I’m also really glad that I’m using heavier yarn than is called for; when I look through the project photos on Ravelry, I notice that the projects I like best were done in worsted weight, rather than sport. There’s a fullness to the stitches, and a solidity to the double-knit sections, that I think you just don’t get (at least, not on size 4 needles) if you’re using lighter-weight yarn. In any case, I’m just absolutely delighted with how this project is turning out, and I’m so glad I decided to dive into it. I have no idea when I’ll finish – considering that I’m making a scarf in which each row is effectively knit TWICE, it might be awhile!

two-color brioche + double-knitting = fun!


I ripped out my first attempt at Paris’s Brioche Scarf and restarted on size 4 needles, and that turned out to be the right call…I’m delighted with the fabric that I’m getting now!

Light-side of Paris's Brioche Scarf

Light Side!

The combination of two-color brioche and double-knitting is blowing my mind in the best way!

Dark Side of Paris's Brioche Scarf

Dark Side!

I really feel like I’ve already kind of “leveled up” my ability to read my knitting…I’m getting the hang of telling when I should be brioching, and when I should be double-knitting, and I can feel things clicking into place in my brain as I develop a better understanding of the geometry of it all.


Both Sides!

And I’m just absolutely smitten with the two-sidedness of it – I think I might like the dark side a bit more than the light side, but both look great, and I’m having a lot of fun!

Briochestash :)

Briochestash! :)

sleeve the first: complete!


I promised a post about sweater progress, so here I present to you: a sleeve!

I have very long arms.

I have very long arms; I’m just under 5’4 but have the armspan of someone who’s 5’9

I finished the first sleeve on my Farmhouse Cardigan a couple of days after we got back home from our trip to Wisconsin. It was nice to get back to the larger projects again!

Sleeve number 1, complete!

Yeah, I was totally stabbing myself in the boob with that dpn. Whoops.

I always have to knit at least an inch or two longer than patterns call for because of my disproportionately long arms, but at this gauge (4sts/inch), that really doesn’t take very long at all. Stockinette-in-the-round is great for mindlessly knitting while watching a TV show or listening to a podcast; my new two-color brioche + double-knit scarf definitely requires more attention than that!

So anyway, there’s where I am with the Farmhouse Cardigan – finished with sleeve number one, and about to cast on for sleeve number two. Hooray!

Sleeve number 1: complete!

I’m really pleased with the fit on this sleeve – it’s close-fitting but not tight.

I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll have the second sleeve finished and can knit on the yoke – maybe I’ll have a new sweater before the end of the month!

a new project!


A new-to-me discovery this summer has been the Fruity Knitting podcast. I can’t remember how I came across it in the first place, but since the semester ended, I’ve been watching older episodes while I knit once I’ve finished whatever work I need to get done, and have been really enjoying it – enough that I decided I should become a patron. In the most recent couple of episodes, they introduced a KAL centered on “Scary New Techniques”. Well, I’m a pretty fearless knitter, so there really aren’t any techniques that scare me per-se, but one in particular that I’m interested in, but have never done, is two-color brioche. (For that matter, I can only think of one time, and it was well over a decade ago, that I’ve even done ONE-color brioche). And ever since I saw the Paris’s Scarf pattern, which combines two-color brioche with double-knitting (another technique that I’m fascinated but fairly inexperienced with), I was smitten.

Planning a new project!

In my stash, I had a couple of skeins of Fibre Company Canopy Worsted in “Quetzal” that had no project assigned to them, and another couple of skeins of Malabrigo Worsted in “Whales Road” with the same status. I really like the way that the slightly blue-streaked purple looks like the lighter robin-egg blue color! The pattern calls for sport-weight yarn, but I’m going to give it a go with these light-worsted yarns and cross my fingers that it works!

The first step was learning how to do the two-color Italian Cast-On, but that turned out not to be too difficult, because it’s very nearly the same as the tubular cast-on that I use when knitting 1×1 rib in a single color. The set-up rows took a little more focus, but look!

The beginning of the scarf!!

I might be just a BIT excited about this!

I figured it out!! The “blip” you see in the middle (with two light blue stitches in a row) isn’t an error – it’s the set-up for the double-knit part of the pattern. It’s mind-blowing in the best way to figure out how double-knitting and brioche go together!

Look, I made brioche! (Plus a tiny bit of double-knitting in the center)

But what you might notice in the photos is that my scarf is looking WIDE. I had thought that I should use larger needles because I’m knitting with heavier-weight yarn, so cast on and started with size 6’s, but now that I’m seeing what I’ve knit so far, I think I need to rip it out and start over again on size 4’s like the pattern calls for, because my stitches feel a little bit more loosey-goosey than I’d like, and I’m also hoping for a slightly less wide scarf.

But hey, it’s not wasted time – I’ve (sort of) started to wrap my brain around how two-color brioche works!

Light side!

“Light-Side” Row

Dark side!

“Dark-Side” Row

And the whole point of the New Technique KAL is to develop muscle-memory for a technique that’s new to you, so I’ve already started that process even if I’m going to have to rip out what I’ve done so far.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about my sweater projects – I just want to have a smaller, more portable project, too, and couldn’t resist joining the KAL! I’ll have a post about sweater progress soon :)

more listening, less tone-policing (please)


Hey, I finished another cowl! This time, it’s brown. How now, brown cowl?

Brown Willow Cowl, finished.

Which means that I now have EIGHT Willow Cowls, in a whole rainbow of colors!

All 8 Willow Cowls.

There’s not really much more to say about the cowl – I mean, it’s the eighth one I’ve knit, so I obviously like the pattern and I’ve already said whatever there is to be said about it. But I do have a lot to say about tone-policing, so guess what? That’s what I’m going to talk about! (But with pretty cowl photos throughout, because eye-candy is nice.)

Recent events in the online knitting world have shown just how much white folks have to learn, and just how resistant they are to learning it, choosing instead to tone-police. And look, I appreciate a calm, kind, supportive tone as much as the next person, but we need to do a heck of a lot more listening to the content of what others have to say, because a calm, quiet tone can be used to express enormous amounts of disrespect, condescension, and hatred…and a loud, angry tone might well carry an important message, and the anger might very well be justified.

Brown Willow Cowl, finished.

When we care deeply about things, we tend to be more animated in the way that we talk about them, and when what we’re talking about is an injustice that affects us or those we care about deeply, there is going to be emotion there. To expect otherwise is to expect people to be robots. My own experience (OMG, so much experience) with being tone-policed tells me that white men, who are accustomed to living life as the “default” race & gender, are the most likely to pull the “tone-police” card, and I find that completely unsurprising: when the social issues being discussed don’t actually having any direct bearing on you (because, after all, you’re the “default” around whom everything is designed to work smoothly), it’s pretty darned easy to not have any real emotion in your voice when you talk about them; why, unless you are thinking about the impact on others, WOULD you have any emotional reaction to it? This then bleeds into viewing their own perspective as more “objective”, because it’s not “tainted” by emotion. The people who don’t have as much “skin in the game” can paint themselves as superior because they’re using a calm, polite tone to oppress others, and they can use the completely justified emotions of those who are oppressed as an excuse not to listen. This just keeps privileging white (and male) perspectives…it’s a never-ending cycle. But we need to end it.

Of course, as someone who has been a mindfulness practitioner for several years, and who will soon be teaching mindfulness classes to college students, I do think there is value in learning how to calm yourself, and how to communicate in a calm and measured way, even when you are very emotionally invested in something and in a heightened emotional state. That’s something I always try to do, though emotion does sometimes bleed in, because I’m human, after all. And I’m also female, which means that the set of emotions I’m “allowed” to express are very different from those that men are “allowed” to express. The way that “anger” is coded as “poison” when expressed by women but as perfectly normal and unremarkable for men, while many of the caretaking-related emotions that are expected of women are completely off-limits for men…these limits that patriarchy imposes are damaging to both genders. Let’s trample the rules that say that women are “scary” or “dangerous” or “toxic” when they’re angry, and that men are “weak” when they’re kind. Then we’d all be able to communicate (and beyond that, simply *exist*) more authentically.

All 8 cowls, in a delightfully squishy pile.

A nicely balanced pile of cowls

And as long as there are power-imbalances, there will be people who have every reason to be angry. And here’s the thing: I believe pretty strongly that it doesn’t matter how much the oppressed use a calm and measured tone…they’ll be accused of being “hostile” or “angry” or “divisive” or whatever else no matter what. Tone-policing is simply an excuse not to listen that makes the powerful seem “reasonable” – but the powerful will push back against the oppressed no matter what tone the oppressed use. But listening is precisely what the powerful need to be doing.

Here’s where the rubber hits the road for me: the context of parenting. (I have Sarah Pope to thank for pushing me to think about this.) It’s not at all unusual for a parent to “tone-police” their child; in fact, part of our job as parents is to help our children learn how to communicate in socially-acceptable/expected ways, and to teach them how to talk respectfully to us and to everyone else. Tone is actually something I have to pretty explicitly work on with my own child, who has social/pragmatic language difficulties; I need to do some pretty direct coaching about *how* to say things because my sweet child just doesn’t pick up on these “rules” the way a neurotypical child does. But whether or not neuro-atypicalities are at play, people who are distressed will not always have the capacity to express their distress in a way that hits our ears the way we want it to. To expect otherwise is absurd – but many, many parents essentially do this.

As Autistic Abby so eloquently put it back in 2015: “sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say ‘if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you’ and they mean ‘if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person’ and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.” When I’m talking about teaching children to communicate respectfully, here, I don’t mean “respect” as “talking to someone like they are an authority”; I simply mean “talking to someone like they are a human with inherent worth and dignity.” There are certainly power-imbalances between parents and children, and as I mentioned above, that’s going to give the less powerful good reason to feel angry sometimes; some of that is inherent to the nature of the parent-child relationship, I think, but I think that many parents insist on a kind of “respect” that equates to “treat me like an authority” while refusing to offer their child the kind of “respect” that means “treat them like a human with inherent worth and dignity” until that former kind of respect is displayed by the child towards them. And if that’s what we’re doing, I think we parents of white children are basically training them to be the next generation of tone-policers. I’m also really mindful of the fact that the work I do with my own child relating to tone and communicating respectfully is VERY different than the work that my friends who are parenting children who are not white have to do. Sure, a neurodivergent kid like mine has a rough road ahead of them if they struggle to learn how to interact with the rest of the world in expected ways…but, unless they’re a child of color, they’re unlikely to end up in a fatal encounter (with police or otherwise) because of an inability to communicate the kind of “respect” being demanded from them.

Out of focus Willow Cowl hug.

Out of focus Willow-Cowl hug

A couple of things jump out at me when I relate tone-policing to the context of parenting. One is that tone-policing is inherently paternalistic. If you’re telling someone how they should or should not communicate, you are putting yourself in the position of being their parent or teacher. That’s one thing if you actually ARE their parent or teacher, but it’s another thing entirely when they’re actually just a fellow adult member of society. It’s absolutely gross, and it goes hand-in-hand with colonialism.

The other thing that jumps out at me is this: Tone-policing ESCALATES. Here’s what I mean: let’s say my child is distressed about something, and is expressing their feelings about it in an angry tone. Let’s say I don’t find the thing that they’re distressed about to be particularly valid, so I try to shut them up by dismissing what they’re saying because of the tone they’re using – maybe I say, “don’t you dare talk to me like that!” or maybe I’m a bit nicer and I just say “fix your tone!”. What do you think happens? Does this magically calm the child down? NO! The child gets angrier and angrier. Because here’s the thing: when you’re angry, what you want is to be heard. When you’re dismissed instead, that’s enraging. We ALL feel angry when we aren’t heard. Like, that’s the most human thing in the world. If we can listen to another person’s anger without tone-policing them, I think that it can actually go a long way towards de-escalating things. If we can accept that someone else has negative feelings (maybe even negative feelings ABOUT US) without trying to police those feelings into silence, we can perhaps actually hear what they’re saying. Listening to the message underneath the angry tone also means that we’ll have a better understanding of the underlying problem, and thus a better shot at actually working to address it. And that is the ONLY way we are ever going to learn how to undo the systems of oppression that we’re all embedded in.

Presenting: 8 Willow Cowls.

The writers at Unfinished Object have an excellent post about tone-policing that I want to encourage everyone to read. One point they made: even if it’s true that we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, who wants to waste their honey catching flies? And where I fall with this is that if we’re using “flies” as a metaphor for people who are behaving oppressively, it’s not so much that I want to “catch” them…but I actually do want to *reach* them, because I see that as an opportunity to change them. This, by the way, is not at all a comment on what OTHER people should do – please don’t waste your honey! But I’m a teacher at heart, and I’m also a white lady, and this is ally work, not something we should even remotely expect of people who are actively marginalized.

And it turns out that vinegar’s actually way better for cleaning house AND for catching at least some kinds of flies! Can it work with people? I want to think out loud about how we get people to change. Because it’s not wrong to say that people learn better when they feel safe and secure (we KNOW that’s true, from loads of research) and it’s easy to take that and think that it means that the people who aren’t “watching their tone” are being counterproductive to the goal of changing people…but here’s the catch: “safety” is not the same thing as “comfort”. And in fact, too much comfort is not all that helpful for true learning, because learning? It’s about changing. (Like, inherently so: you are a different person, with a differently-wired brain, after you’ve learned something than you were before.) And if you’re really comfortable, there’s no real impetus to change. We’re prompted to change when something’s not right…and that’s uncomfortable. The problem is that so many white people mistake discomfort for a lack of safety, and they FREAK OUT. (Read Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” for more about this.) Safety, in the context of learning, is in large part about having *low-stakes* spaces where you can mess up and learn from your mistakes…these things are important because if the stakes are too high, we fall into perfectionism and lose our capacity to learn and grow. But guess what? The stakes here aren’t really as high as we think. Yes, I know…people say that they worry that they’re going to accidentally “say the wrong thing” and end up losing their business as a result, but what actually makes the stakes that high is the unwillingness to own a mistake, apologize authentically, and learn from the experience. Because we ALL screw up from time to time. But the people who own their mistakes, who don’t respond defensively, who actively listen to the criticism they’re receiving and use it as the impetus to change, generally end up in a better place in the end, not a worse one. It’s the people who defensively double-down who end up losing business, etc…but it was their own reaction that raised the stakes. If you aren’t open to being wrong, you can’t learn…and you’ll end up causing even more harm when you double down.

All 8 Willow Cowls.

I don’t want to minimize how distressing it can feel to be “called out”, especially given the speed with which things can happen online. I think that social media can quickly amplify things beyond a level that our social brains can really cope with, and I think even people who are open to being wrong and to trying to make things right can end up feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the responses they get if something they said gets passed around and goes “viral”. It’s not that there aren’t any stakes at all – it is legitimately overwhelming to have hundreds or even thousands of people responding to something you said. (I mean, heck, when Ysolda shared my post on her Instagram account, there weren’t even a hundred responses, and they were all positive, and I still felt a little “WHOA” at the amount of replies, and overwhelmed by the way my inbox filled up! I have no idea how people with much more widely-read accounts than mine cope, honestly.) I understand how this would make a person feel really defensive, as if they are under attack. But it is ALWAYS an option to take a deep breath before responding. It’s always an option to tell people that you’re realizing that you messed up. It’s always an option to thank them for helping you see something that you weren’t seeing before. It’s always an option to apologize to the people you’ve hurt. It’s always an option to try to restore things…but importantly, this isn’t about restoring your sense of your own goodness, but rather, the people and relationships you’ve harmed with your words.

Think of criticism like medicine. It may not be all that pleasant, but it’s exactly what you need to get better. A spoonful of sugar can certainly help the medicine go down, and it’s great if we can give you the medicine with a bit of sugar in it, if we’ve got the sugar to spare, but in the end, if you’re sick (and believe me, all of us who’ve grown up steeped in cultures of white supremacy are sick), it’s the medicine that matters, and you need to take it, sugar or not.

So many Willow Cowls!

(And yes, these cowl photos are totally sugar.)

A green cowl for the 4th of July


I’ve been up in Wisconsin, visiting my family, but have continued the summer of green knits by knitting (yet another) Willow Cowl, this time in green.

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Willow Cowl
Yarn: Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Jade”
Needles: size 5 circular
Time to Knit: about a week

And yes, despite being American, I’m rather deliberately not dressed in patriotic colors today. For this Fourth of July, I recommend spending some time with this incredible work of oratory, delivered by Frederick Douglass just shy of 167 years ago in what is now the city I call home, and noticing how it echoes to the present day: “What to the slave is the 4th of July?”

Now our nation is not just 76 years old, and I’m afraid that for me, this statement from Douglass proves to be true: “Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow.”

The future surely does feel shrouded in gloom; I hope that hope has not completely gone out just yet, though. I like the framing offered in this conversation between Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Greta Thunberg: that hope is something we make when we act, and that with our action, we can make hope contagious.

So much of what Douglass spoke about is just as relevant today, but I’ll take just a small sampling: “But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued.”

Indeed, Frederick. Alas, what seems quite plain to me, like the shared human dignity and worthiness of care of people seeking asylum, or of LGBTQ+ people, is something we are still expected to argue, as if in arguing it, we don’t inherently concede that those things really are in question.

And this: “The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers.”

I have no patience for the veneration of our “founding fathers” or our national ideals by those who are unwilling to honestly face the darker truths of our nation’s history, to own and acknowledge that those ideals only ever originally applied to privileged, landed white men and still primarily do, to own and acknowledge the plunder of black lives that enabled this country to become the wealthy one that it is, to own and acknowledge that we still, in 2019, have not repaid those debts, and it is still the case that many in our country can reasonably ask whether this country, and this holiday, is actually for them.

I am disgusted by the theft of 2.5 million dollars from our National Parks budget to fund Trump’s military-dictatorship style parade, this “celebration” of our nation that is only for those who venerate Trump. Though he may, amongst his nonsensical rambling, occasionally make statements glorifying the founding fathers, we all know who Trump is really interested in glorifying while stabbing the cause of liberty. How could anyone honestly say that we are a country that values liberty while we have children in cages at the border?

May all of my American readers have a thoughtful and reflective Fourth of July. And may we all, no matter what nation we call home, keep doing the work that must be done in our countries, to bring them closer to valuing all people and working together to prevent the worst of what is to come for this planet we share – and remember that while we face these challenges together as fellow Earthlings, like so many other things, it is the poorest, most marginalized people who are likely to suffer most acutely from the ravages of climate change. I’m deeply uncomfortable with patriotism that celebrates ones country as being superior to others…the only sort I can get behind is captured in the song below (if, like me, you know the tune, you can sing the words):

“This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.”

(“A Song of Peace,” Finlandia, Jean Sibelius)

I’ll close by noting that Douglass offered his remarks, and I now make my home, in the ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee, and right now, I’m with family in the ancestral lands of the Menominee, and our United States of America have much to answer for in our treatment of these people and these lands.